College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (Scholarship Program)

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Overview, Initial Assignments and Career Path

CSPI is a program designed for motivated individuals who demonstrate a high caliber of academic and leadership excellence, who desire to serve their country in the United States Coast Guard. Students currently enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a bachelor's degree program at a pre-designated college or institution*(defined below) with the desire to complete college and receive a guaranteed commission as an officer in the United States Coast Guard can apply for CSPI. This means that a student currently pursuing an AA/AS degree at a junior college or community college who plans to continue with their education and obtain a BS/BA degree may be eligible for CSPI if they are accepted for enrollment at a qualifying college. 

Students who are accepted into this scholarship program will be enlisted into the United States Coast Guard, complete basic training during the summer, and receive full funding for up to two years of college. Funding includes not only payment of tuition, books, and fees, but a full Coast Guard salary, housing allowance, and medical benefits.

During the school year, students participate in monthly Coast Guard activities under the supervision of the RIC at their recruiting office for a minimum of 16 hours. This includes wearing a Coast Guard uniform once a week while on campus and during their 4 weekly hours of Coast Guard duties. During school breaks, CSPI students receive training and exposure to Coast Guard missions and units where they learn about the daily life and duties of Coast Guard officers and enlisted members. Students may be able to work at an Air Station, Small Boat Station or Sector. Students may also be able to participate in a cruise on a Coast Guard Cutter depending on the opportunities available at the time. Often students are able to complete watchstander qualifications at their unit, which will substantially help them when they become an officer.

After completing their junior year of college, CSPI students attend a three week leadership training course in New London, CT during the summer; “Officer Candidate Indoctrination.”  Following college graduation, CSPI students attend the 17-week officer candidate school (OCS) in New London, CT. Upon successful completion of OCS, graduates receive a commission as an ensign (O-1) and an assignment in one of the many exciting Coast Guard missions, including (but not limited to) marine safety and prevention, contingency planning, law enforcement and incident management, vessel navigation and safety, icebreaking and search and rescue coordination.


During OCS, CSPI students (officer trainees) compete for positions that will be available to them upon graduation and commissioning. Assignment officers work with officer trainees to provide an initial assignment that best meets the needs of the service, and the skills, training, experience, and desires of the individual. The initial assignment for a junior officer is considered their opportunity to not only lead and manage resources, but begin learning and excelling in an officer specialty. Many junior officers typically receive subsequent assignments in the career field of their initial assignment; however, opportunities exist to receive training and qualifications in other specialties, then pursue a subsequent assignment in a different career field.

CSPI Eligibility Requirements

  1. Age: Have reached your 19th but not your 28th birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection panel convenes. For fiscal year 2015, for example, you cannot have reached your 28th birthday by 30 September 2015.
  2. Character Standards
    • ​​​All applicants must be of outstanding moral character, and must meet the requirements of Appendices 3 and 4 of the OJAK.
    • Applicants currently in the Coast Guard: Applicants are ineligible for commissioning if in the 36 months prior to the first OCS class convening date in the selection cycle, they have been convicted by a court-martial, been awarded non-judicial punishment (NJP), received an “Unsatisfactory” conduct mark, received a mark of less than “4” in any performance dimension, received a negative Administrative Remarks (CG Form 3307), or been involved in an alcohol-related incident.
  3. Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen
  4. Clearance: Must be eligible for a secret clearance
  5. Dependency:
    • ​​If single, may not have sole or primary custody of dependents.
    • May not have more than two dependents.
  6. ​​Education: Be a sophomore or junior undergraduate student enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a bachelor degree program at an accredited college or university designated as:
  7. ​Grade Point Average: Must have at least a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
  8. Financial: Must meet all financial obligations, and not have a debt to income ratio in excess of 30% ratio of debt to projected income at applicant’s highest accession level i.e. at the O-1 level. May not have filed for bankruptcy in the last 10 years.
  9. ​​Interview: CSPI applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers (in the OJAK, refer to Application Process, Section C, Interview Board Detail for specifics on the CSPI Interview) one of which should be CSPI-accessed officer, if at all possible. The interview board will complete the CG-5527 form.
  10. Military Service:
    • Have no more than six years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service.
    • CG Reservists and members of other military services are eligible to apply for the CSPI program if they meet all eligibility criteria and receive a conditional release. Recruiters and applicants shall complete section I of the DD368 form. Recruiters shall then submit the DD368 to the CGRC Accessions branch. CGRC will facilitate release directly with the applicant’s service.
    • Active-duty members may be eligible if discharged from their service before the date the CSPI selection panel convenes.
  11. Physical (Medical): Must pass a commissioning physical (including):
    • Normal Color Vision
    • Meet height/weight standards (see Appendix 1)
    • Must be able to pass a physical fitness test and swim test prior to graduation from basic training and OCS
  12. Test Score:  Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely):
    • SAT I: 1100 or greater combined score (math and critical reading)
    • ACT: Composite score of 23 or greater
    • ASTB: 4 AQR/ 5 PFAR (or greater)
    • ASVAB: GT score of 109 or greater (110 if taken prior to July 1, 2004). GT score is derived by combining the VE and AR scores
  13. Program-Specific Requirements:
    • CSPI applicants must be willing to accept and fulfill all requirements of the program Statement of Understanding (SOU). The SOU stipulates work hours, training, character, academic and administrative expectations of students who have been accepted into the program.
  14. Tatoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy.

CSPI Terms of Service and Appointment Grade

  1. Selectees enlist in the Coast Guard in pay grade E-3 with a four year active-duty obligation and a four-year inactive reserve obligation.
  2. At OCS graduation, CSPI members will be discharged from their enlisted status and commissioned as an O-1 (ensign) Coast Guard officer (reserve commission) with an initial three-year active-duty obligation.

CSPI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. If I am accepted for the CSPI program, will I still be able to pursue extra-curricular activities in college (sports, student government, etc).
    • ​​Absolutely. Part of being a CSPI student is continuing to pursue activities that increase your responsibility and involvement in your community, and thereby hone your leadership skills.
  2. Is CSPI the equivalent of a Coast Guard ROTC program?
    • CSPI is a scholarship and leadership training program for future Coast Guard officers wherein enrolled students must adhere to high standards of performance and conduct in order to maintain scholarships status. In this way, it is similar to ROTC. However, unlike the typical ROTC program, CSPI students are actually active-duty enlisted members of the Coast Guard with full pay and benefits, until completion of OCS when they receive a commission as an officer.
  3. If I am already an E-3 in the Coast Guard and I have less than 4 years of time in service, am I eligible to apply to CSPI?​
    • ​​Yes.
  4. What if I am currently attending a junior college or a community college that only provides 2 year degrees; how can I become eligible for CSPI?
    • ​​Merely apply for enrollment in a Bachelor’s program at a qualifying school (see item number 6).

Application Process

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the Plan Your Next Move page and follow the application process, which includes downloading the forms and all necessary application elements appropriate for the CSPI program.